Saturday, 17 January 2015

Meanwhile Back in the World of Books and Challenges...

Taking a break from reminiscing to see how my 2015 reading is coming along.

Just Completed

Funeral in Berlin by Len Deighton - I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. I've read a couple of other Len Deighton books and wasn't overwhelmed by them. The book was written in 1964 and is an excellent Cold War spy novel. It's the third of four novels based around an unnamed British spy. The other books are The Ipcress File, Horse Under Water and The Billion Dollar Brain. I have to admit that often I had no idea what was going on. But it didn't seem to matter as the book was so well-written, had humour and also excellent characters and it did come together in the end. The story wanders from London, to Berlin, to Czechoslovakia and France. The premise is that this unnamed British spy is in Berlin to arrange for the smuggling of a scientist from East Berlin to the West. Each chapter describes plays and players in the game of chess and these tie into the story. The story flowed nicely and overall I enjoyed very much. Well - worth reading. (4 stars)

Currently Reading

1. Citizens of London by Lynne Olson - This is the second book I've read by Lynne Olson, the first being Angry Young Men. Both are set in the build-up to and into World War II, the first centred on the British politicians who risked their political careers to have Neville Chamberlain ousted from power so that Britain would enter the war against Nazi Germany. This second is set during the London Blitz and afterwards and is focused on Americans; US Ambassador Winant, radio broadcaster, Edward Murrow and millionaire and Roosevelt appointee, Averell Harriman, all who were desperate to get the US to enter the war and support the beleaguered British. I like Olson's style of writing very much; I never enjoyed taking history in school, but she makes it accessible and interesting. I'm enjoying this book very much so far.

2. Raven Black by Anne Cleeves - This is the first of Cleeves' Shetland mysteries, featuring Police Inspector Jimmy Perez. I've enjoyed the Vera books and TV series previously and the missus and I have also watched most of the Shetland TV series, also most enjoyable. The book is centred on the murder of a young female student and introduces us to Jimmy Perez. The plot is already familiar to me, as I did watch the TV show based on this book. Having said that, it's interesting comparing the book and TV show. I also enjoy how Cleeves presents the characters and story, so am enjoying this very much so far.

3. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins - This is my first classic selection of 2015. I hope to read 4 books written before 1900, or with luck, maybe even a couple more than that. The Moonstone was written in 1868, with this Penguin edition published in 1981. I don't know anything about the book, except that it is supposed to be the first and longest modern English detective novel. I like the way the story is being presented so far; I have just started, each section from the perspective of a different person and I've been very pleasantly surprised how smooth Collins' writing style is. Time will tell how much I enjoy this, but if keeps along this path, I think I'll enjoy very much.

So there you go, my mid - month reading update. I'll do a January summary at the end of the month. Suffice it to say that I'm on track at the moment, having completed 4 books so far.

Reminiscences of a Military Brat - Part 2 - We Move to Bagotville, Quebec

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I was born in North Bay, Ontario in late 1955 and very shortly afterwards, the family moved on to our next base, located in Bagotville, Quebec. This base was quite in the hinterland of Quebec, near the Saguenay River and at the time, close to the cities of Chicoutimi and Arvida. (It seems that the area may now be called Saguenay City.)

Aren't I a happy camper.
We moved there when I was still a baby, I think just a few months old, but we stayed there until 1961, and I completed Kindergarten and Grade 1. We lived in a standard PMQ for a family of 3, a duplex with two bedrooms upstairs; one shared by Rick and me and one for my sister. My parents had the room downstairs, actually a dining room, but used mainly for a bedroom. That left a family room and kitchen, as well as a basement, small as I recall because the furnace was located pretty well centre of the room. That was the laundry room. To my recollections, I thought it was pretty big, but, then again, I was just a baby. Many years later, when I was in the military and living in one with my family, I found myself walking into doors, cursing the narrow halls. It's all perspective, eh?

With my best friends Raymond and Bernie Finnegan on the back step
As I recall, it was a unique base, definitely a mix of English and French - speaking families. The base schools were also quite different; they were set up as the Catholic and Protestant schools (I attended the Catholic one) and, at least in the Catholic school, it was further broken down by the English and French speaking classes. So generally, my friends were fairly limited to those I went to school with and those that lived next door to us.

Graduating from Kindergarten with Anne Louise Smith and Raymond
I did enjoy myself there, although school, for the first time, was sort of traumatic. I remember standing out in the playground with all these other kids for the first day of Kindergarten; we lived close enough to walk to school, wondering what the heck I was in for!! But of course, it turned out OK. School was fun and I did OK. It was fun area to grow up; a nice playground near the school and PMQ's, a wooded area right behind our house, that I spent much time in with my friends. I seem to recall an instance where we walked through a wasps nest as we followed the neighbour's German Shepherd, Sinta, through the woods. Never ran so fast in my life and was stung many times. My mom's remedy, a hot bath and relaxing in my pyjamas on the front porch later on. It worked.

Me on the right, the short guy. I don't think there are any Hall of Famers there.
Every summer, the base would send a big truck around behind the PMQ's, with a big smoking machine on it that was used, as I understand, to kill the mosquitoes. I don't know what the smoke was made of, but we kids had a great time running after the truck and through the smoke. In the winter, there was an outdoor rink that was frozen and used all winter for hockey (of course, what else?). The snow was piled to the top of the boards and the parents could look down on us as we played. The hockey doesn't stand out in my mind, I played one winter and I don't think I was any good. But there was a nice clubhouse beside the rink, with a snack bar and there was nothing as good as a hot chocolate and hot dog with mustard on a cold winter day.

Chris and Rick always looking out for me
I don't know what Chris and Rick were up to, they were that much older than me. They had friends, I know; the Finnegans, who lived two doors down had children their age. And, of course, they had to babysit me when Mom and Dad went out. Even there, I think my parents were involved with curling, but I may be wrong. They were when we lived in Chatham (Part three of this story), I know for sure.

A Trip to Timmins to visit the Dumoulins (Dennis and Laurie Lee)
Even so far from our relatives in Northern Ontario and Quebec, we still had visitors in the summer, or went on our own treks back to family. It could be a long trip, first down through the Park to Quebec City and Montreal, then back up to Rouyn, Kirkland Lake and Timmins, but as you can see, we did enjoy our visits.

I think my First Communion
I mentioned that I went to the Catholic base school; one of the aspects of our education was, of course, the religious aspect. They did cram it in there; in Grade One, I did my first Penance, Communion and Confirmation. Did it mean anything to me at that age? Probably not.

The area we lived in, around the Saguenay, was very French, of course. It didn't impact me as I was fairly young and lived a relatively sheltered life on the military base. I think it was harder for my mother; she spoke very good French, but it was proper school - Parisian French and, from the stories I heard growing up, the locals were very insular and could pretend not to understand. TV, which was a new thing, was mostly French, but I don't recall any difficulties watching cartoons, Huckleberry Hound Dog, Yogi Bear, etc. in French. Shows like CBC's Front Page Challenge were still in English, so we had a mix.

Basically, I recall life being good, living in PMQs a good thing. We lived there six years and at the end, the base was getting very noisy. The Voodoos were coming in and replacing the Sabres, so in some ways, I was glad to be moving further East to Chatham and leaving the Voodoos behind. But, at the same time, it was a very sad time when we moved; part of the military life I didn't really enjoy, that being leaving friends behind and having to start over in a new location.

So, in 1961, after finishing Grade 1, the family packed up and headed to the Maritimes, to our base in Chatham NB. That will be the next instalment. I hope you've found this somewhat interesting.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Reminiscences of a Military Brat...

The other day one of my co-workers, a Reservist like me, retired. He and I are a similar age; in fact, he was supposed to retire in October, while my date is Nov 10th, but health issues meant he left a bit early. His retirement, plus a couple of others recently, got me thinking about my past. I'm going to be 60 this year, and, unless something changes, I will finally, officially retire from the military. I've served almost 35 years in the Regular Force and since 2009 in the Reserves. Before that I was a military brat, meaning my father was in the Canadian Forces and I, along with my brothers and sister, followed him around military bases both inside and outside Canada. So basically, other than one year, I think, when my dad retired and before I joined the military, I've spent my whole life with some sort of relationship with the Canadian Forces. So, I thought, that, this being my last year, I'd kind of, occasionally take a look back and hope to provide a look at the life of a military brat and the life of someone in the military.

I hope it won't be too self-indulgent, but, hey, it probably will. But, then again, it is all about me. :0). As a starting point, the term 'military brat' is one way of describing me; the term that my family tended to use was 'PMQ' brat. PMQ's stand for Permanent Military Quarters and that is where military families tended to live. Living downtown amongst civilians wasn't done back in the '50s and '60s. The military built housing next to the Air, Army or Navy base and that is where we all lived. We went to base schools, entertained ourselves at base facilities; cinemas, hockey and curling rinks, bowling alleys, etc. My friends for the most part were other military brats and they always changed because our fathers moved regularly to new bases and we had to make new friends at each place. Not always an easy thing for kids, but that was the life.

Mom and Dad
So, let's take a step backwards and start where it all began for me.  I was born to Real and Edith Dumoulin, 10 Nov 1955 at 7:00 a.m, in the Civic Hospital in North Bay Ontario. At that time my father was stationed at Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) base, North Bay and I believe was an aero-engine technician. As I have been told, he had been supposed to be transferred the previous summer to Cold Lake Alberta, but because my mother was pregnant with me, that transfer never took place. Instead, after a few short months in North Bay, he was transferred to the Air Force base in Bagotville, Quebec.

The required embarrassing shot

My baby book
My father had been living with my mother in Timmins Ontario before I was born. After World War II, when my father served in the Royal Canadian Navy, he returned to Timmins to work in the Hollinger gold mine. He met my mother, who, I believe, worked for a lawyer in Kirkland Lake, just down the road from Timmins, they fell in love and got married.

With my older sister, Chris and brother Rick
While in Timmins, they had their first two children, Rick, who is eight years older than me and Chris, who is six years older. My dad's family is from Timmins and my mom's, who emigrated from Germany after WWI, lived in Kirkland Lake. At some point, my dad decided that he could better support his family if he joined the military again. So he joined the RCAF and found himself, eventually in North Bay. (The link does provide some info on the history and such of RCAF station/ base North Bay)

My Dad, I think taken a bit later
In North Bay, we lived on Foster Place. I don't remember anything about this early time as we moved to Bagotville before I was one year old. Rick and Christine went to grade school in North Bay, on the base, and then continued with their schooling and I started mine when we moved to Bagotville (but more on that in the next instalment)

Uncle Raymond and Aunt Lorreine my god-parents
A couple of highlights for me of my life in North Bay. I was christened (baptised) at the church on base and my god-parents were my dad's sister and brother, Aunt Lorreine and Uncle Raymond. Well, actually, I guess that's the big highlight. As I say, I don't remember that first few months, but we would ultimately return to North Bay, much later in my father's career. More about that later.

Me and Grandma (aka Meema), dad's mom
I leave this section with the last photo. I was so darn cute, eh?.. Well, then again, maybe not so much. Next instalment, we move to Bagotville. I have more memories about that base, made friends, started school, all the good things.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Back to work tomorrow.. *sigh*

Well, we've had our nice weather, it seems. Over Christmas, it was sunny, cool and fresh for the most part. Since New Years, it's been cloudy, gloomy, rainy and windy, must mean I'm going back to work soon.. ;).. So there you go, my first weather report of 2015.

The missus and I enjoyed a very entertaining movie last night; Million Dollar Arm, starring Jon Hamm and Lake Bell. It's a true story about the first two Asian/ Indian men to try and make in major league baseball. It was well-acted and an excellent sport movie.

I also took my first visit to my local used book store, Nearly New Books, yesterday, and found a few books. So after all my shelf organising, I've got to find spaces for 7 new books.. *sigh*.... Oh, what books, you ask? Well, these are they....

1. Murder in the Latin Quarter by Cara Black. I have the first book in the Aimee Leduc series on my 12 + 4 reading list. It looks like an interesting series, featuring detective Aimee Leduc who has her practice in Paris. Each book in the series seems to focus on different areas of Paris. Obviously this one is set in the Latin Quarter. This is the synopsis, "A Haitian woman arrives at the office of Leduc Detective proclaiming that she is Aimee's sister, her father's illegitimate daughter. Aimee is thrilled; she has always wanted a sister. Her partner, Rene, is wary of this stranger but Aimee embraces her. She soon finds herself involved in murky Haitian politics which lead to murder in the old university district of Paris, the Latin Quarter." This is the ninth book in the series, so it'll probably be awhile before I get to it.

2. The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty. My sister-in-law, Sue bought me the third book in this trilogy set in Northern Ireland and featuring Catholic detective, Sean Duffy. Luckily, the first book was one the first ones I saw as I was wandering around the store. Believing totally in fate, especially when book shopping, I purchased it. This is the synopsis, "Spring 1981, Northern Ireland. Belfast on the verge of outright civil war. The Thatcher government has flooded the area with soldiers, but nightly there are riots, bombings and sectarian attacks. Amid the chaos, Sean Duffy, a young, witty, Catholic detective in the almost entirely Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, is trying to track down a serial killer who is targeting gay men. As a Catholic policeman, Duffy is suspected by both sides, and there are other layers of complications. For one thing, homosexuality is illegal in Northern Ireland in 1981. then he discovers that one of the victims was involved in the IRA but was last seen discussing business with someone from the Protestant Ulster Volunteer Force. Fast-paced, evocative and brutal, The Cold Cold Ground is a brilliant depiction of Belfast at the height of the Troubles and a cop caught in the cross fire." It does sound like an interesting trilogy and I should read in order. It's a period of which I've read about in the news, but which is quite alien to the culture in which I was raised. Fascinating to try and get another perspective on it.

3. Another Man's Moccasins by Craig Johnson. I've enjoyed the Longmire series on TV ever since it started. It was cancelled by A&E at the end of last season, but I've read that Netflix has picked it up. Excellent series. I've had the first book for a couple of years now and it, also, is on my 12 + 4 list for this year. I've avoided buying any other books in the series until I actually read the first, but I can't knock the price and I can read at least one more. This is the fourth book in the Longmire series. "When the body of a young Vietnamese woman is discovered alongside the interstate in Wyoming's Absaroka County, Sheriff Walt Longmire finds only one suspect, Virgil White Buffalo, a Crow with a troubling past. In what begins as an open-and-shut case, Longmire gets a lot more than he bargained for when a photograph in the young woman's purse connects her to an investigation that Longmire tackled forty years ago as a young Marine investigator in Vietnam."

4. Landed Gently by Alan Hunter. I have read a couple of the George Gently books and have a couple of others waiting on my bookshelf for me. As well, Jo and I enjoyed the TV series very much, although I have to say it had quite a different feel than the books. Landed Gently is the fourth book in the series and was published in 1957. "A Christmas break means business as usual for Gently when there's murder beneath the mistletoe. Having been invited to spend Christmas in the country fishing for pike, Gently finds himself hunting a completely different predator when a guest at Merely Hall, a nearby stately home, is found dead at the foot of the grand staircase on Christmas morning. At first the tragedy is assumed to be a simple accident; but Gently is not one to jump to conclusions and is soon in no doubt whatsoever that this was murder. Merely produces the finest tapestries in England, but the threads that Gently must unravel in his investigation are more complex than any weaver's pattern. Everyone, from the lord of the  manor to his most lowly servant, falls under suspicion. It's a cold Christmas in the country when the air is sharp with the chill of murder." Always a good read and well worth trying out both the books and the show.

5. The Snare of the Hunter by Helen MacInnes. Helen MacInnes is a British spy writer who I'm not familiar with. I know her name, but have not read any of her books. She lived from 1907 - 1985 and wrote 22 novels. While I was reading Alistair MacLean's The Last Frontier over Xmas, one of her books was mentioned in the back of the book, so I decided to try one out, as I do like Alistair Maclean. This one seemed the most interesting of the 4 or so that were on the shelves in the bookstore. This is her 17th book and was written in 1974. "Get Irina Kusak safely out of Czechoslovakia. that is the plan. Bring her to the hideout in Austria where she will be reunited with her famous father, a Nobel Prize nominee, who has escaped from behind the Iron Curtain. It is a dangerous mission. Almost certain to fail. For the gallant little band of amateurs picked for the job is no match for professional killers. Or are they?" We'll see how much I enjoy her stories.

6. The Blue Ice by Hammond Innes. Like Helen MacInnes, Hammond Innes is another new author for me and his books were also listed in the back of the MacLean book. Innes was a British author who lived from 1913 - 1998. Over his life, he wrote 30 novels. The Blue Ice was his 11th book and was written in 1948. "George Farnell's legacy came to light ten years after his disappearance. Two lines of poetry and a lump of mineral ore were all he left. Yet they were enough to send mineral expert Bill Gansert to Norway. But word of Farnell's findings had already leaked out. Gansert found himself caught in a maze of ambition and treachery whose roots lay deep in the years of German Occupation. Yet the danger threatened by his rivals was as nothing compared with the blinding snow and the blue ice of Norway's glacier country." Brrrrrrrr!

7. Cover Her Face by P.D. James. P.D. James lived from 1920 until 1914, having passed away last November. She is most noted for her Inspector Dalgliesh mystery series, although, she is not limited to that. One of my favourite books of hers was Children of Men, a dystopic SciFi story. I have read one of the Dalgliesh mysteries so far, Original Sin, which I enjoyed very much. In my Mystery book group on Goodreads, we have started a thread, encouraging discussion of her books and her writing style, etc. I thought it would be a good idea to try and find her first book in the Dalgliesh series, hence Cover Her Face. I will try to read this in the next month or so. "Sally Jupp was a sly and sensuous young woman who used her body and her brains to make her way up the social ladder. Now she lies across her bed with dark bruises from a strangler's fingers forever marring her lily-white throat. Someone has decided that the wages of sin should be death... And it is up to Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh to find out who that someone is."

So there you have it, my first purchases of 2015. I'll try to be good for awhile and focus on reading and Blog writing and stay out of book stores for a week or two.. ;)..

Anyway, off to find a place for these books.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Welcome to 2015

Well, here we are, starting off 2015. I spent yesterday watching New Year's Day footie and finishing off an Alistair MacLean thriller, The Last Frontier, one I'd hoped to finish 2014 with. Such is life, so my first 2015 book of the year was a bit of a carry-over. It wasn't my favourite Alistair MacLean book, I found it kind of pontificating. It involved a British spy who sneaks into Hungary to try and 'rescue' a British scientist who's attending a conference in Budapest. Along the way, with typical MacLean verve, there are many crises, which endanger his helpers as much as Mr. Reynolds and also much discussion about the causes of world disorder, etc. It's still an entertaining Cold War thriller, but, as mentioned, not my favourite MacLean book.

Now onto my first starts of 2015.

1. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious - This is the Pan edition that I found. It was published in 1970, a 20th printing. The first printing, as per the inside flap, was in 1957 by Frederick Muller Ltd. A few of my Goodreads' friends read this the past couple of years and seeing them listing it, brought back memories of the TV series that I remember my parents (and me of course) watching back in the late' 60s. It's described as a prime time soap, so must have been in the evenings. It had a great cast; Ryan O'Neal as Rodney Harrington, Barbara Parkins as Betty Anderson, Mia Farrow as Alison MacKenzie, Dorothy Malone as her mother, Constance MacKenzie, etc. A couple of years ago, the missus watched the original movie on TCM. That helped get me interested in the book. So this year, it's my first selection. As it says on the back, 'Frank, revealing, shockingly honest! Teeming with incident and vitality, this big, rich diverse novel of American small town life truly presents the characters in the full dimension of their lives." From what I've read, it was quite a shocking novel for its time, sold 60,000 copies in its first ten days and remained on the Times best seller list for 59 weeks. The author, Grace Metalious (I do love that name) did write a few other books, but this was her big success. I've just started but I'm enjoying how the characters and the town of Peyton Place are being introduced.

2. The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett - This edition was published by Pan Books in 2001. The book was first published in 2000. Simon Brett is an accomplished radio producer and mystery writer. When I heard the missus listening to his Charles Paris series on BBC Radio, it got me looking him up. He wrote not only the Paris mysteries, but also the Mrs. Pargeter series and the Fethering series, amongst other works. I've slowly been collecting his books, but up until now haven't had the opportunity to read any. The Body on the Beach is the first in the Fethering mysteries and is also the first book in my 12 + 4 challenge. It features two women sleuths, Carole Seddon and her neighbour, Jude. This is the synopsis, "Very little disturbs the ordered calm of Fethering, a pleasingly self-contained retirement settlement on England's southern coast. Which is precisely why Carole Seddon, who has outlived both her husband and her career at the Home Office, has chosen to reside there. So the last thing Carole expects to encounter in Fethering is a new neighbour with but one name and an obviously colourful past. 'Jude' was not really Fethering..... but neither was the body Carole found on the beach. A body, it has to be said, that has disappeared by the time the police arrive. Only Jude is ready to believe what her neighbour says she saw - and from that moment on, the two women are resolved to turn detectives."

So there you go, 2015 is underway! Have a great weekend.
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